Friday 30 March 2018

Inspirations - The War Games

The War Games was written by Terrance Dicks and Malcolm Hulke, and came about after the final running order of the season collapsed. A six part story by Hulke (called "The Imitators") was supposed to be followed by a four part tale, to be written by Derrick Sherwin, that would write out the Second Doctor and his companions, Jamie and Zoe. Troughton had only reluctantly signed up for a third series, and Hines had almost left halfway through Season Six. Padbury was asked if she would like to stay on to help bridge the changeover to the Third Doctor, but elected to go with the others.
With this story, Sherwin finally became the Producer of the series, something he had been doing in all but name for a number of months. Dicks became the new Script Editor - again, something which he had already been doing uncredited.
Having taken on the mantle of producer full time, Sherwin then asked Dicks to devise a ten part adventure that would see out the remainder of the year. Dicks knew that he could not manage this himself in the time allowed, so called upon his one-time landlord Hulke to collaborate with him.
The director chosen was David Maloney, who had impressed the production team and had lately helmed both The Mind Robber and The Krotons. He would be given nine days of location filming.

As the story would need to lead up to a regeneration (still never called this on screen), the Doctor had to fail in some way at the conclusion. Dicks realised that he needed something which was too big for the Doctor to solve on his own. He would need to call for help, and Sherwin agreed that the most likely candidates to do this were his own people. We would finally learn something of the Doctor's background, and of how he had come to be the wanderer in Time and Space.
Dicks and Hulke then devised a plot about a series of War Games, being fought on an alien planet in different time zones. This was a scheme by the aliens to create a super army from the survivors, who would take over the universe. The aliens would be abetted by one of the Doctor's own people, a renegade like the time-meddling Monk who had featured in two Hartnell stories. He would provide the time technology which the aliens needed to lift human soldiers from their terrestrial battlefields to continue fighting on this planet, unaware they were being manipulated.
Having the action take place over multiple war zones would allow for the story to maintain interest over the proposed running time. Maloney asked his son to come up with some ideas for the zones.

The TARDIS first arrives in the middle of the First World War - or at least that is where the Doctor thinks they have landed. The year is stated as 1917, and Lady Jennifer Buckingham, the ambulance driver who picks up the time-travellers, mentions the town of Ypres.
This is a town in Western Belgium, and a number of major campaigns were fought in its vicinity during WWI. The first was in 1914, and the second in 1915, when the first mass use of poison gas was employed by the Germans. The Battle of Passchendaele was the third campaign, from the summer of 1917 into November - so could be the background to the events we see here. However, from July 1917, the Americans were fighting in France and Flanders (the Dutch speaking part of Belgium), and there is no sign of them in this story.
Lady Jennifer is said to be a member of the WRVS - Women's Royal Voluntary Service. This is indeed her uniform, but the WRVS were based solely on the Home Front, and did not see service in the battle zones. By rights Jennifer should be a FANY (of the First Aid Nursing Yeomanry) or a VAD (of the Voluntary Aid Detachment).

The Doctor and his companions are arrested and accused of being spies and deserters. The court martial we see in Episode One does not match with reality. We see a copy of The King's Regulations, but not the Manual of Military Law. The tribunal was composed of impartial members - not the people bringing the charges in the first place. Witnesses were called, and the prisoners were represented. Also, when it came to the verdict, the most junior member of the tribunal gave their decision first, lest they be accused of simply kowtowing to their superiors. When ti came to facing the firing squad, the Doctor should have had a piece of paper pinned over his heart for the soldiers to aim at, and he should have had a medical officer and a padre accompanying him. I suppose we can put this shocking failure to follow protocol down to the baleful influence of General Smythe, as it will transpire that he is one of the aliens behind this scheme, and has the ability to hypnotise the mentally-conditioned humans.
From the 1960's onwards, historians had begun to re-evaluate the events of the First World War. In the past, jingoism had prevailed, but now people were beginning to question the reasons for the war, and its running. The phrase "lions led by donkeys" was coined, summing up the bravery of the soldiers used as pawns by generals and politicians in a war of attrition. 1957 had seen the release of Paths of Glory, directed by Stanley Kubrick and starring Kirk Douglas. In this, a trio of French soldiers are sent to the chateau headquarters of their general to pay for the supposed cowardice of their battalions. The general in question is a bit of a psychopath, who tears up military protocols to secure convictions. At one point he gives the order for a barrage on his own troops - just as Smythe does here. It might deal with an earlier conflict, but the film The Charge of the Light Brigade had only recently been released and it was seen as a comment on all wars, showing incompetent generals leading hapless soldiers into disaster.
Another inspiration behind the WWI sequences of The War Games might well be Oh! What A Lovely War. Even if Dicks never went to see it, Hulke most certainly would have, as it was devised and directed by Joan Littlewood, and we know Hulke was closely associated with left-wing theatre. We are talking about the theatre production here, though the Richard Attenborough film version - not released until after this story began broadcast - would also come to have a link. The play present the war as a seaside entertainment, and is full of songs from the era.
The link to the movie is that the WWI sequences were recorded at the same Brighton rubbish dump where Attenborough had filmed.

Apart from Smythe's obvious hypnotic powers, we still think we are in 1917 Flanders for much of the first two episodes. However, strange things are beginning to make themselves felt. I always assumed that the sniper who saves the Doctor from the firing squad was a German one, but have since noted that it is actually an American Civil War soldier. This isn't very noticeable. Smythe appears and disappears in a big box which makes the same sound as a TARDIS, and has a futuristic TV screen hidden behind his portrait of George V. Then Jamie finds himself in prison with a Redcoat soldier who comes from 1745. This latter event is odd, as 1745 does not feature on the map of the War Zones which the alien commanders have. The Doctor's suspicions are confirmed when the ambulance drives through a bank of fog and he and his companions are confronted by Roman soldiers. It has been noted that such a small contingent of Romans would never have carried an Eagle Standard. The precise event from which they have been taken is not mentioned. In the draft script one of the Romans thinks the ambulance is some "Gaullish" trick - a disguised elephant - suggesting that this is France around the time of Julius Caesar's Gallic campaigns. However, the inclusion of the Roman army was one of Maloney Jnr's ideas, and he suggested that they come from the invasion of Britain under the Emperor Claudius, which commenced in 43 AD.

After a trip back to the 1917 Zone, the action moves to the American Civil War Zone. This internecine conflict between the Southern Confederation of States and the Northern Union of States began in 1861 and lasted for four bloody years. The prime instigation was disagreement over slavery - the South wanting to retain and indeed expand it - but westward expansion also played a role. The individual states which left the Union also argued that it was their right to do so. One of the soldiers claims that they have come from the year 1862.
The Doctor and Zoe use one of the aliens' time machines - a SIDRAT - to travel to their HQ at the heart of the War Zones, where we find out about their scheme and meet the renegade from the Doctor's own people - the self-styled War Chief. The name of those people - the Time Lords - is dropped almost nonchalantly into a conversation between the aliens' Chief Scientist and the Security Chief. In a few year's time, the name of their planet will be mentioned just as casually, although it had already been revealed in an article in a comic some months before.

Jamie and Lady Buckingham, meanwhile, encounter a resistance force, comprising soldiers from all the Zones whose mental conditioning has broken down. In command of this group is Russell, who hails from the Second Boer War (1899 - 1902). The other conflicts which are represented on this planet include the Mexican Civil War of 1910 - 1920, which is presumably where Arturo Villar comes from. Petrov comes from the Russo-Japanese War of 1904 - 1905, or more likely the Crimean War - fought between the Russians and an allied force of British, French and Ottomans between 1853 and 1856. We hear of the 30 Years War Zone - which engulfed much of Europe between 1618 and 1648. This was a series of religious conflicts sparked by the Holy Roman Emperor trying to limit the freedoms of his Protestant citizens. In grew to include as many combatants as there were years of warfare. Like the Roman Zone, we don't know exactly what conflict is taking place in the Greek Zone. Presumably it is one of the conflicts between Athens and the Persians, or perhaps between Athens and Sparta. The Peninsular War was fought between the British under Wellington (with Spanish and Portuguese allies) and the French, under Napoleon Bonaparte. It ran from 1804 to 1814, and one of its most famous battles was a sea one - Trafalgar. Interestingly, the aliens don't seem that interested in sailors for their army, even though their eventual army of conquest would involve the use of spaceships.
The last Zone mentioned is the English Civil War, another campaign deriving from religion and the conflict between the supremacy of the Monarch against that of Parliament.

And then we get to the problem of Private Moor - played by David Troughton. His dad had previously got him a background role as a guard in The Enemy of the World. (That story had also featured Hines' brother Ian as another guard. It should be noted that Sherwin's wife played Lady Jennifer in this story, and the previous producer had seen his wife appear in Tomb of the Cybermen, so nepotism was common at this time). The alien commander supervising both the WWI German forces and the Confederate ones, Von Weich, identifies Moor as coming from the year 1871, but the British army was not involved in any major conflict at this time, and this does not fit with any of the identified Zones. The year given is probably a mistake, and Moor comes from the Crimean War, although it is possible that a number of conflicts have already been resolved prior to the Doctor's arrival - which might explain the 1745 Redcoat Jamie encountered.
There is a rather blatant error in The War Games, where Jamie states more than once that he comes from 1745 - seemingly confirmed by the Doctor - when we know that the Battle of Culloden was fought in 1746, when The Highlanders was set.

Eventually, the Doctor and his companions manage to forge an alliance of the different resistance groups, to make one big effective fighting unit, and the alien HQ is breached. The War Chief has been silly enough to ask the Doctor to join him in usurping the army from the aliens, led by Philip Madoc's War Lord. He's been sparring with the Security Chief, so it comes as no surprise when the latter records this treachery and plays it back to his boss. The Doctor brings the battles in the War Zones to a halt, but then discovers that the SIDRATs which the War Chief supplied have only limited life and can't possibly get everyone back home to their rightful times and places. This is how the Doctor comes to call upon his people to come and help. But before they arrive, he is going to do a runner.
The Time Lords give chase and eventually the TARDIS is brought home. The Time Lords first put the War Lord on trial. Some people like to think that "War Lords" is the name of his race, as though they are somehow equals to the Time Lords in their particular sphere of influence, but this is never stated on screen.

We only see three of the Time Lords, and they seem to have telepathic powers. They appear to condone torture, as they attack the photosensitive War Lord with bright lights. He attempts to escape, showing that at this time Gallifrey has not yet developed its defensive Transduction Barrier - as a SIDRAT full of alien soldiers materialises right next to the trial chamber.
The escape fails, and the War Lord is dematerialised, and his planet imprisoned in a time loop. It is then time for the Doctor to face his trial. We learn that Time Lords "can live forever, barring accidents", but they are content merely to observe the universe. They do not interfere in the affairs of other worlds, and the Doctor was not willing to go along with this. He wanted to get out there and see things for himself, and to meet these other civilisations. In the course of this, he tended to get involved, and over time adopted his crusading role - helping defend weaker races from the hostility of others. He asks for a "thought channel" to demonstrate some of the evils he has fought - summoning up images of Daleks, Cybermen, Ice Warriors, Yeti and, er, Quarks. It could have been worse, including a Kroton, but the costume was too badly damaged. He claims he had only "borrowed" the TARDIS, and this doesn't seem to get included in the charge against him. (That derives from the prologue of the novelisation of the next story).

Jamie and Zoe are sent back to their own times, their memories of the Doctor erased from the point after their first adventure with him. Clare Jenkins is brought back to play Tanya Lernov in a brief sequence showing Zoe back on the Wheel after the TARDIS has left without her, whilst the scenes of Jamie fighting a Redcoat were obviously filmed along with the American Civil War stuff for this story.
The Time Lords take what the Doctor has told them into consideration, and the verdict they pronounce is that he is to be exiled to Earth - a planet for which he has demonstrated a special attachment. In addition, he will be forced to change his appearance - and here we find out that it needn't be a random process. He fails to make a choice, so the Time Lords will select a new appearance for him. And so the Troughton era ends as the 1960's end, along with production of the show in Black and White.
Next time: A new colourful era dawns, with only the TARDIS and the Brigadier to help bridge the gap, in a story that very nearly didn't happen...

Tuesday 27 March 2018

Story 191 - The Fires of Pompeii

In which the Doctor takes Donna on a trip to Rome at the height of the Empire. As they look around, Donna points out that the city has one big mountain, instead of the famous seven hills. The Doctor realises with horror that they have arrived not in Rome but in Pompeii. It is the 23rd of August, 79 AD, and Mount Vesuvius is about to erupt...
As smoke begins to billow from the summit of the volcano, and earth tremors strike the city, they rush back to the TARDIS only to discover that it is missing. A market stallholder tells them he has sold it to a local marble merchant named Caecilius. Their arrival is being observed by a young woman in red robes, with a painted face. She reports back to her sisterhood - the Sibyllines - to inform them that a prophesy is coming to pass. The arrival of a blue box will signal a time of fire and destruction. The Doctor and Donna go to Caecilius' home where he has set up the TARDIS as a piece of modern art. They claim to be marble inspectors, and announce that they have to impound his new artwork for inspection. They meet Caecilius' family - wife Metella, son Quintus, who is suffering from a hangover, and daughter Evelina. She is ill, and they discover that she experiences visions of the future. Her forearm is bandaged, and beneath they see that her flesh is turning to stone.

The city's chief augur arrives - Lucius Petrus Dextrus. he has come to take possession of a marble slab which Caecilius has been asked to manufacture for him. The Doctor notes that it has a design reminiscent of an electrical circuit. Lucius and Evelina seem to know that the Doctor is a Time Lord, and that he comes from Gallifrey, and that Donna comes from London. Donna is said to have something on her back, and the Doctor is told that "she" is returning. After Lucius has gone, the Doctor learns that the city is heated by hypocaust vents, fed directly from the volcano. Evelina breathes in the vapours from these vents every day, and the Doctor deduces that this is linked to her prophesies. He bribes Quintus into showing him where Lucius lives. They break in and they discover that he has a number of marble slabs, which join together to make a complete circuit. back at the villa, Donna is abducted by the Sibylline Sisterhood and taken to their temple for sacrifice. The Doctor is caught by Lucius and discovers that his right arm is entirely made of stone. He and Quintus are forced to flee. As they race back home, something seems to be following them under their feet. At the villa, a massive stone creature with a molten core smashes its way up through the floor. It is destroyed when cold water is thrown over it.

The Doctor goes to the Sibylline temple and rescues Donna. He meets the High Priestess, whose body is almost entirely petrified. From her they learn that beings called Pyroviles live at the heart of the volcano. These aliens crashed here centuries ago, and were reanimated following the earthquake of 62 AD. They are able to bond with humans when they inhale their dust particles - turning them into Pyroviles themselves. Their psychic powers give them their visions of the future. The Doctor is surprised that none of them seem to have foreseen the imminent destruction of the city. He and Donna escape from the temple through a cave system which brings them to the chamber beneath the volcano. The Pyroviles are going to use the marble circuits to power a device that will cause the planet to become habitable for them - but deadly to humans. The Doctor is horrified to realise that in order to stop them destroying the Earth, he will have to trigger the volcano. Pompeii must be sacrificed for the sake of the whole planet. Lucius arrives and tries to stop them. Donna helps the Doctor make the final decision. They are blasted out of the volcano in an escape pod as Vesuvius erupts. Donna wants to help save the citizens, but the Doctor claims that this is a fixed point in time which cannot be altered. She then pleads with him to save just one family, as they return to Caecilius' home to regain the TARDIS. He relents and ushers them into the ship. They move to a nearby hillside and witness the destruction of the city. Some time later, the family have relocated to Rome, where Quintus is now training to be a doctor, and Evelina is free of the Pyrovile taint. The Doctor, Donna and their blue box have replaced their household gods...

The Fires of Pompeii was written by James Moran, and was first broadcast on 12th April, 2008.
The story is significant for featuring two future stars of the programme - Twelfth Doctor Peter Capaldi (here playing Caecilius), and companion Amy Pond actress Karen Gillan (as the young Sibylline sister who sees the Doctor and Donna arrive). It is also the first story since the series returned to have extensive overseas filming. The city exterior scenes were filmed at the famous Cinecitta studios on the outskirts of Rome.
Russell T Davies had originally intended a story about the destruction of Pompeii for the first series, where it would have filled the 11th story slot which eventually went to the cheap episode Boom Town. The two part story The Empty Child / The Doctor Dances had seen both Captain Jack and the Doctor refer to "Volcano Day".

Moran based his Pompeian family on the one that featured in the Cambridge Latin Course text books. The banker Caecilius has a son named Quintus and a wife named Metella, though the daughter of the household is named Lucia in the books.
Metella is played by Tracey Childs, Quintus is Francois Pandolfo, and Evelina is Francesca Fowler. Only Pandolfo got to travel to the Italian location filming. The main guest artist is Phil Davis who plays Lucius. His name - Petrus Dextrus - roughly translates as stone right-hand. Comic actor and Spitting Image voice artist Phil Cornwell plays the market trader who sells the TARDIS. He had played the Ninth Doctor in a Dead Ringers sketch.
As well as numerous references to past stories - and even a future one - there are a number of Series 4 story arc points present:
  • "She" is returning.
  • Donna has something on her back.
  • The Doctor calls upon the authority of the Shadow Proclamation to demand that the Pyroviles identify themselves.
  • The planet Pyrovilia has been lost.
  • The Doctor's name is written across the Cascade of Medusa.
  • Someone mistakes the Doctor and Donna for a married couple.
"I'm Spartacus - and so is the wife..."
Overall, it is an excellent episode. Initially rather funny - with Roman-related jokes - it inevitably has to turn deadly serious. The sequence showing the destruction of the city is incredibly moving thanks to VFX, music and performances. Catherine Tate, in these final scenes, is superb. Voted a healthy 71st place (out of 241) in the DWM 50th Anniversary Poll. I gave it a 10.
Things you might like to know:
  • Moran based the joke about the TARDIS being a work of art on the scene from City of Death, featuring John Cleese and Eleanor Bron.
  • Talking of Cleese, the Doctor's line "You must excuse my friend, she's from Barcelona" is a reference to waiter Manuel from Fawlty Towers.
  • Some of the Roman-related jokes were inspired by the anachronistic humour of the Asterix comics.
  • Donna also claiming to be named Spartacus derives from The Life of Brian as much as it does from the Kirk Douglas epic.
  • The future story this prefigures is, of course, The Girl Who Died, wherein the Doctor realises that saving Caecilius influenced his last regeneration, and inspires him to save Ashildr.
  • This story also mentions the "fixed points in time" notion for the first time, which is revisited many times afterwards - such as the destruction of Bowie Base One on Mars.
  • The Doctor's water pistol gets stolen by a Graske in the BBC Proms piece Music of the Spheres.
  • The 1965 story The Romans is referenced, as the Doctor denies responsibility for the Great Fire of Rome, only to then admit he was partly to blame.
  • A couple of reused props appear. The pool in the villa will be seen shortly as the clone vat in the forthcoming Sontaran two-parter, and the escape pod will be the Sontaran spaceship, from the Sarah Jane Adventures story The Last Sontaran.
  • We discover that the TARDIS translation circuits can't cope with the Doctor or companion actually using the local language - as Latin comes out as Celtic / Welsh to the Pompeians. 
  • The sequence with the family holding onto their possessions to stop them toppling over during the earth tremor was inspired by a scene from Mary Poppins.
  • There was a real Caecilius resident in Pompeii at the time of the eruption - whom the character in the Latin text books was based upon. He was the banker Lucius Caecilius Iucundus, and he too had a wife named Metella, and a son named Quintus. It is believed that he died in the earthquake which struck the town in 62 AD, as there is no record of him after this time. His house can still be seen.
  • Lucius is described as the town augur. Augurs specifically interpreted omens from the flight patterns of birds. The name comes from Auspex - one who looks at birds. They could tell if a course of action was going to be lucky or unlucky, and this is where we get the terms auspicious / inauspicious from. The Romans also had Haruspices - who divined good or bad fortune from the entrails of sacrificed animals, especially the liver.
  • The look of the Pyrovile High Priestess was inspired by the plaster casts of the victims from Pompeii and neighbouring Herculaneum, whilst the giant adult Pyroviles were inspired by Roman soldiers, with their crested helmets.
  • If you are one of those people who regard the audios and books as equally canonical, you may wish to ponder how the Seventh Doctor could also be in town at the same time as this story - twice.

Sunday 25 March 2018

D is for... De Vries

Leader of the British Institute of Druidic Studies, Leonard De Vries owned the large house, Boscombe Hall, which abutted the land on which the Nine Travellers prehistoric stone circle was built. He and his followers held ceremonies at the circle, where they worshipped the ancient Celtic goddess Cailleach. De Vries had in his possession portraits of the many women who had owned the land over the centuries - all likenesses of local woman Vivien Fey. He also had a pet crow, which carried messages from the Cailleach.
The Doctor visited De Vries to learn more about the circle, only to be drugged. He awoke to find himself about to be sacrificed by De Vries and his followers. They were scared off by the arrival of Fey's friend Professor Amelia Rumford. As they had failed to make the sacrifice, De Vries and his friend Martha were killed by the Ogri - blood drinking stone aliens which formed part of the circle.

Played by: Nicholas McArdle. Appearances: The Stones of Blood (1978).

D is for... de Souza, Lady Christina

Free-spirited daughter of a financier who had lost his fortune after the collapse of the Icelandic banks, Lady Christina took up a career as a cat burglar - partly to make money but mainly for the thrill of it. Detective Inspector McMillan was obsessed with capturing her. One evening she broke into the National Museum in London, to steal the Cup of Aethelstan, a golden chalice. The theft went to plan initially, but on leaving the building she saw that her getaway driver had been arrested by McMillan. She jumped on a passing bus. Next to her was the Doctor, who was attempting to trace some temporal distortions. As it passed through a tunnel beneath the Thames, the bus was transported through a wormhole to the desert planet of San Helios. Lady Christina immediately took charge over the other passengers, but soon deferred to the Doctor once it was revealed that he had experience of this sort of thing. She accompanied him to the crashed Tritovore spaceship and used her burglary skills to fetch the components needed to levitate the bus out of the sand and get them back home through the wormhole.
When they got back to London, she wanted to go travelling with the Doctor but he refused to take her. She was then arrested by McMillan, but the Doctor used his sonic screwdriver to unlock her handcuffs, and she escaped in the flying bus.

Played by: Michelle Ryan. Appearances: Planet of the Dead (2009).

D is for... de Medici, Catherine

The Catholic Queen Mother, whose son was King Charles IX of France. In order to ease tensions in the country between the Catholic majority and the Protestants, she arranged for her daughter to marry King Henry of Navarre, a leading Protestant. Alarmed that her son was falling increasingly under the influence of one of his advisers - the Protestant Admiral de Coligny - she agreed to an assassination plot against him. When this failed, she then agreed to the massacre of the Protestant population of the city when it was feared that they would attack the Catholics in revenge for the assassination attempt.

Played by: Joan Young. Appearances: The Massacre of St Bartholomew's Eve (1966).

  • Catherine de Medici (1519 - 1589) was the daughter of Lorenzo II de Medici. Her uncle, Pope Clement VII, arranged for her to marry the second son of King Francis I of France - Henry. He became King Henry II after the death of his older brother. Catherine was mother to three French kings - Francis II, Charles IX and Henry III. Francis II she married to Mary Queen of Scots. He died young, and Catherine acted as Regent until Charles came of age.

D is for... DeMarco, Clarence

A vicious serial killer who had murdered 14 women. DeMarco had been brought to justice by the Great Detective - Madam Vastra. He was scheduled to be hanged when he was visited in his cell by a trio of ghostly blank-faced figures - the Whisper Men. They were servants of the Great Intelligence. They informed him of a secret which he might use to save his life. He called for Vastra to visit him in prison and told her what he had learned. This was a secret about the Doctor - one that "he will take to his grave, and it is discovered".
This was a reference to the Doctor's grave, on the planet Trenzalore. Vastra agreed to a stay of execution, whilst she investigated this message further.

Played by: Michael Jenn. Appearances: The Name of the Doctor (2013).

  • DeMarco also featured in one of the episode's on-line prequels - Clarence and the Whisper Men.

D is for... De Flores

A Nazi officer who had fled to South America at the end of the war. The bow belonging to the Nemesis statue came into his possession, and he intended to seize the rest of the statue and use it to establish the Fourth Reich. The statue was made from a living metal named validium, created as a weapon on Gallifrey. It required its bow and arrow to reach critical mass, but the arrow was in the possession of the 17th Century sorceress Lady Peinforte, and the bow had gone missing after being stolen from the Royal Collection at Windsor Castle. De Flores and a group of armed mercenaries arrived in England on the day that the Nemesis statue was due to return to Earth. It had been launched into space by the Doctor in the 17th Century, but in a decaying orbit.
Converging on the landing site were De Flores and his men, as well as Lady Peinforte and a squad of Cybermen, all seeking control over the statue. In the confusion of the Cybermen's arrival, the Doctor stole the bow. De Flores tried to join forces with the Cybermen, but he and his associate Karl were captured and were to be converted into mental slaves. They escaped, but De Flores was later killed by the Cyberleader.

Played by: Anton Diffring. Appearances: Silver Nemesis (1988).

  • Diffring was called upon to play Nazi officers in a number of films and TV series, which was ironic as he had been forced to flee Nazi Germany because of his sexuality, and because his father was Jewish.
  • He claimed not to have any idea what the script was about, and said he only took the part as he would be filming in England whilst Wimbledon was on. He was quite ill at the time, requiring regular oxygen treatments, and he died a few months after the story was broadcast.

D is for... de Coligny

Admiral Gaspard II de Coligny was the most senior Protestant statesman in France. His prominence concerned the Catholic court - especially his close friendship with the young King Charles IX. He was a valued confidante of the king, and his rivals at court feared that he might unduly sway the monarch to adopt pro-Protestant policies. Of particular concern was his attempt to encourage the king to lend military support to the Dutch Republic, against the Spanish Hapsburg forces. During the festivities arranged for the wedding of the king's sister to the Protestant King Henry of Navarre, the Queen Mother, Catherine de Medici, agreed to a plot to assassinate the Admiral. The attempt failed but he was seriously wounded. Fearing a backlash from the thousands of Protestants who had come to Paris for the wedding, it was decided that all the senior Protestants would be killed. The ensuing massacre spread, leading to many deaths. de Coligny was stabbed in his sickbed, and his body thrown from the window into the street. The Doctor and his companion Steven were in Paris at the time of the massacre - 24th August 1572.

Played by: Leonard Sachs. Appearances: The Massacre of St Bartholomew's Eve (1966).

  • Sachs returned to the series in 1983 to play the Time Lord President Borusa in Arc of Infinity.

D is for... de Bergerac

The famous French swordsman and man of letters, Cyrano de Begerac was summoned up by the Master of the Land of Fiction to fight against the Doctor's hero, D'Artagnan. When the Musketeer began to gain the upper hand, the Master replaced him with Blackbeard the Pirate.

Played by: David Cannon. Appearances: The Mind Robber (1968).

  • de Bergerac was a real historical figure -Savinien de Cyrano de Bergerac (1619 - 1655) but his exploits were fictionalised in an 1897 play by Edmond Rostad.

Thursday 22 March 2018

Inspirations - The Space Pirates

Written by Robert Holmes. This story was one of those last minute commissions which characterise the final half of the final season for Patrick Troughton. We've already mentioned how a number of scripts have had to be abandoned late in the day. Holmes was deemed a good, strong writer, who could deliver a workable story at short notice, so he was invited back quickly after contributing The Krotons.
His first idea was what would eventually be turned into a BBC radio drama called Aliens in the Mind, starring Vincent Price and Peter Cushing, made in 1977. It is set on a remote Scottish island, and involves telepathy and mind control. The earlier Doctor Who version was called "Aliens in the Blood". The radio adaptation was handled by someone else, as Holmes was busy on Doctor Who in 1977.
The story was rejected, and Holmes was tasked with devising something else. For inspiration, he only had to look at the sort of adventure films and books he had always enjoyed.
The main inspiration lies in the story title. It's all about piracy, but instead of the Seven Seas we are in deep space. The principal pirate - a man named Caven - isn't just raiding ships, however, he is stealing them wholesale. Actually, the ships in question are unmanned navigation beacons, and he is stealing them to break them up and melt them down in order to sell their metal - a particularly rare and therefore precious mineral called Argonite.

Pirates were very popular in fiction back in the Victorian period, but their cinematic heyday was relatively short-lived, centred round the middle of the 20th Century. Many movies were adaptations of literary classic such as Jamaica Inn or Treasure Island. Despite the fact that they featured sea-going criminals, many of these movies glamourised the pirate as Hero - either up against a more villainous pirate captain, or the authorities (usually the British navy, presented as the baddies). Back in 1935 we had Errol Flynn as Captain Blood. Burt Lancaster was The Crimson Pirate in 1952, and then there was Tyrone Power in The Black Swan. Even Bob Hope got in on the act with The Princess and the Pirate, in 1944. As well as their adaptation of the Dr Syn novels (see The Smugglers) Hammer contributed The Pirates of Blood River in 1962.
The pirate movie continued strongly on the continent, being a particular favourite of Italian cinema-goers, but for British and American audiences they had rather fallen out of fashion after the 1960's.
There were some attempts to translate the genre into either modern times (e.g. The Island) or as science fiction (e.g. Waterworld). 1995 saw a big budget attempt to do a full-blooded pirate movie, with Cutthroat Island. This did not do well at the box office. Then, in 2003, we got Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl. This was the first of what has become an incredibly successful franchise, based on a Disney theme-ride. The most recent film was released in 2017.
It is to books like Treasure Island, and those classic Hollywood films with Lancaster, Power and Flynn, that Holmes would have looked for inspiration.

Scratch the surface of The Space Pirates, however, and there is clearly another genre lurking not very deep beneath. The story is as much a Western in space as it is a pirate adventure in space. In particular, it is a story about the 19th Century Gold Rushes of California and the Pacific North West.
On 24th January 1848, gold was found at Sutter's Mill, Coloma, California, by James W Marshall. When word got out, several hundred thousand people headed for the area to stake a claim and hope to strike lucky. The peak was in 1849 - hence the nickname for prospectors of 49'ers.
Forty years later, more gold was discovered in the north west areas of the Yukon and Alaska, centering on the Klondike River. This led to another Gold Rush. Owing to the harsher terrain, only around a third of those who set off to capitalise on the rush actually made it.
Many movies have been made about these events, and there are a number of significant writings - such as the works of Jack London and Robert W Service. (Side note: Service's father came from my home town - Kilwinning in Ayrshire). The lawlessness of the prospecting communities can be summed up in The Shooting of Dan McGrew, by Service. (It's the poem Miss Marple uses as an audition piece in the 1964 film Murder Most Foul, starring Margaret Rutherford).
In Holmes' story, these pioneer prospectors are embodied by the character of Milo Clancey. Despite being set in the far future, and with the rest of the cast in spangly silver costumes, Clancey is given a rough lumberjack-style checked-shirt to wear. From the waist up he looks like he has stepped out of a Western. And he has the accent to boot.

Caven isn't just stealing and breaking up the navigation beacons, he is also robbing the Argonite shipments of miners like Clancey. Most fiction relating to the Gold Rushes features a degree of lawlessness - with claim-jumpers or bands of thieves stealing the miners' hard earned efforts. In the Klondike, the authorities were amongst the worst offenders, though the vast majority of crime related to what used to be called camp followers - the sex industry that grew up around the mining towns.
If Clancey is an Old Timer, 49'er, then General Hermack and his International Space Corps would be the US Cavalry, bringing lorr and orrder to the frontier zones, as Major Warne might have said it.
This region of space is basically the Wild West.

Interestingly, Holmes spends quite a bit of time setting up his characters, to the point that the Doctor, Jamie and Zoe don't actually turn up until more than half way through the first episode. This was partly due to Troughton wanting to have an easier time of it on the show - one of his conditions for doing a third year. One of these conditions involved not having to come out of rehearsals on the next serial to do the filming, or to have to film on scheduled days off. As the following story - The War Games - was to have a massive amount of filming, it was agreed that the main cast's roles in the final episode could be committed to film in advance of the episode being studio recorded. This is the only episode other than Mission to the Unknown where there were none of the regulars present in the studio for the evening's recording.
The other thing to say about this story is that it attempts to make space travel look authentic. Spaceships take an age to get to where they are going - no Warp Factor 9 here. This is commented upon in the story itself, as Hermack bemoans the fact that the pirates will have left the scene of the crime before they can get to it. Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey had made space flight more mundane, but this was not new. Some of those 1950's Sci-Fi films had tried to imagine what it would really be like, and had made use of genuine space research scientists in their production (such as Wernher Von Braun acting as technical consultant on Conquest of Space in 1955).
Next time: It's the end of an era in oh so many ways. He is going, but They are coming...

Tuesday 20 March 2018

Meat - Torchwood 2.4

In which a lorry belonging to Harwood's Haulage crashes on the motorway outside Cardiff, killing the driver. The police call in Torchwood, as the vehicle was on its way to an abattoir, and the back is full of some unknown meat. The company is the one which Rhys works for. He is called to the crash site, and sees Gwen and her colleagues examining the vehicle. Samples of the meat are taken back to the Hub for analysis, and Owen confirms that it is alien in nature. Gwen tells the others about Rhys' connection with the company, and there are suspicions that he might be involved with whatever is going on, as the meat seems to have been destined for human consumption. Back home, Rhys tries to find out from Gwen what she was doing that day, not letting her know that she was seen. She is evasive, which causes him to become suspicious.

He follows her to work the next day, and sees her meeting with Jack in the plaza above the Hub. They go off to visit a warehouse on the outskirts of the city, which is where they believe the meat had originated. He suspects that Gwen and Jack may be having an affair. He is spotted by some men and captured. Jack and Gwen see him enter the building with them, and assume he is known to them and therefore part of the conspiracy. In the warehouse, Rhys discovers that the men have a captive creature similar to a vast whale. They are harvesting meat from it whilst it is still alive. They explain that the meat keeps growing back, and they plan to make a fortune from it. Rhys explains that the driver who had died was his friend, and now he wants to take his place. This is a ruse to get information about them. At home once again, he and Gwen argue and she admits that she and her team investigate aliens after he accuses her of sleeping with Jack. Rhys does not believe her, and so she takes him to the Hub.

Jack confirms everything that Gwen has told him. He tells them of what he has seen in the warehouse, and he agrees to act undercover to get them inside. The plan goes awry and Ianto is captured. The men shoot at Gwen but Rhys jumps in the way and is wounded. The rest of the team overpower the men and they are given heavy doses of the retcon amnesia drug. Owen examines the whale creature, which originated in outer space, and determines that it cannot be sedated. To attempt to move it could harm them and it. It is in great pain so they decide that it should be euthanised. Jack gives Gwen some retcon to give to Rhys, but she refuses to use it on him. Rhys now knows about her life with Torchwood, and accepts it, and he was willing to assist them. Jack reluctantly agrees to this, as he had always wanted Gwen to have a life outside the work.

Meat was written by Catherine Tregenna, and was first broadcast on 6th February, 2008.
The episode was designed to take a deeper look into the realities of Gwen having to live a double life, something which had always been there since the second episode of the first series, as well as providing Kai Owen with a more significant role to play. In this, he actually progresses to become the unofficial sixth member of the team.
Another clear inspiration is the eco-message. The creature is basically a space whale, so we have comment on the treatment of terrestrial whales, though it doesn't champion vegetarianism. Tregenna claimed that she never intended the story to do this, and is not a vegetarian herself. Also, the initial concept she had for the creature was not of a whale. It was simply supposed to be a big slab of meat.
The first designs for the creature were of a more exotic shape and colour, but it was felt that the men who held it would have been more likely to make money from exhibiting it than from cutting it up.

You'll notice that I haven't named "the men" above. That's because they are the weakest part of the story. They are rather bland, generic villains, who aren't even seen to pay for what they have done - last seen simply having their memories erased.
Overall, a so-so episode, notable mainly for bringing Rhys into the fold.
Things you might like to know:

  • Nothing much of note to mention for this story. It was generally well received, though the realisation of the whale creature was thought poor.
  • In case the whale metaphor was missed, Ianto mentions Captain Ahab at one point.

Monday 19 March 2018

D is for... Davros

The brilliant Kaled scientist who created the Daleks. The Kaleds had been fighting a war against the Thals for centuries on their planet of Skaro. At some point during this conflict Davros had been badly injured, but he designed a mobile life support unit for himself and continued his work. He had lost the lower half of his body and the use of his left arm, and his senses had been impaired. He built for himself an electronic eye and a network of audio sensors to replace these lost functions. To protect the dome covering the Kaled city, he perfected a chemical which made it impervious to Thal missiles. His principal work was to ensure the survival of his race. He based himself in a bunker on the edge of the battlefield and set up his own special scientific elite unit. He began experiments to determine the ultimate evolutionary form for his people, predicting that the centuries of chemical and nuclear warfare would mutate them. He developed a strain of mutant which would require a mobile life support unit in which to move around. The design for what became known as the Mark III Travel Machine was based on his own wheelchair unit. He gave it a single eye on a stalk attached to its dome, and at the front he fitted a utility sucker arm. He also decided to fit it with a powerful energy weapon for defence. The fusion of mutant and travel machine he decided to call a Dalek - an anagram of the Kaled race name.

The Fourth Doctor and his companions Sarah and Harry were diverted to Skaro by the Time Lords, arriving just as Davros was putting the finishing touches to his new creations. The scientist had become obsessed with them, and sought to make them the most powerful creatures in existence. His people would not just survive, but become the supreme beings in the universe. To this end, he ordered chromosomal variations to the Daleks' brains, removing certain emotional weaknesses, like pity and compassion. When the Kaled government was warned of the new direction his work was taking and threatened to close his work down, he decided that his own people were now inferior to the Daleks, and he would do anything to ensure their survival. He and his henchman Nyder went secretly to visit the Thal government. He gave them the formula for a solution with which they were to bombard the Kaled dome. This would weaken the protective layer he had created and allow a massive Thal rocket to penetrate it. When the Kaled city was destroyed, Davros feigned disbelief and fury, and blamed the treachery on one of the scientists whom he knew to be opposed to his work. This man, Ronson, became the first victim of a Dalek. Davros then sent the Daleks into the Thal city to exact revenge. Soon Davros was facing a more widespread revolt from within the ranks of his elite. He called upon the Daleks to wipe out his opponents, but they then activated the automated Dalek production line without his orders. When he challenged them, they informed him that they did not recognise anyone as their superior - even him. His own supporters were then killed, including Nyder. The Daleks then exterminated Davros when he tried to shut down the production lines.

Many centuries later, long after the Daleks had abandoned Skaro, they went to war against the robotic Movellans. Both sides programmed their battle computers to the point of stalemate. To break this impasse of logic, the Daleks returned to their old city to look for their creator. The Doctor managed to locate him first. Davros stirred back to life, explaining to the Doctor that his secondary life support systems had activated and repaired the damage done to him by the Daleks. He would now help his creations to break the stalemate. The Movellans wanted to kidnap him to work for them, but then decided to use the Doctor instead. Davros was updated on events whilst he had been in suspended animation thanks to a data-sphere provided by the Dalek Supreme. He was scathing that such a Dalek could exist, feeling that only he could lead his creations. Davros was determined that the Movellans should not leave the planet with the Doctor, as he would undo any advantage that he might give to the Daleks. He sent all of the Daleks to their spaceship, with bombs attached to their casings and orders to press themselves up against the hull. They would sacrifice themselves to buy time whilst he awaited the arrival of a rescue ship. The Doctor forced him into detonating the bombs prematurely, wiping out the entire taskforce. Freed slave workers took control of the Movellan spaceship, and used it to take Davros to stand trial for his crimes on Earth. He was placed in a cryogenic suspension unit.

Some decades later the tide of war turned in the Movellans' favour, as they developed a virus which attacked Dalek systems. The Daleks once again looked to their creator to help them. A Dalek cruiser attacked the space-station on which Davros was being held captive - left physically immobile but mentally alert in a cryogenic chamber. The Daleks employed mercenaries led by Commander Lytton to secure the station and Davros was freed. At some point prior to his incarceration he had created a device which could suppress people's willpower and make them susceptible to his orders, hiding it in a compartment in his chair. He suspected that the Dalek Supreme would never tolerate his own ambitions to lead his creations, and feared that they would turn against him again once his usefulness to them was over.

Davros refused to leave the station - claiming he might need to be put back into cryogenic suspension in the event of an emergency with his life support systems. He then converted a number of Lytton's men to obey his will, and then used the device on a pair of Daleks. The Doctor had the opportunity to kill Davros, but found that he was unable to press the trigger and end his life. When the Supreme discovered that Davros was assembling a force of his own, it sent a squad of Daleks to kill him. Davros released a quantity of the Movellan virus into his laboratory then got ready to flee in an escape pod. The virus destroyed the Daleks come to exterminate him, but Davros then discovered to his horror that it attacked his own systems. One of Lytton's men, freed from mental conditioning, then blew up the station using its self-destruct mechanism, taking the Dalek cruiser with it.

Davros had survived, however. The escape pod had been picked up by a freighter and Davros soon found himself on the planet Necros. He set himself up as "the Great Healer" and established himself as controller of the Tranquil Repose funerary complex. This was where people from across the galaxy were interred, and many of them were only in suspended animation - awaiting the day when cures could be found for their illnesses. For Davros, this was a rich source of genetic material with which to experiment upon, in order to create a whole new race of Daleks which would be loyal only to him. To fund his work he went into partnership with the businesswoman Kara, who ran a nearby artificial food processing plant. Bodies which Davros could not use were given to Kara to be turned into a foodstuff. Davros was now confined to a complete life support unit, with only his head remaining. Kara decided to employ an assassin to kill him, so that she could gain control over both industries. Davros was aware of her ambition, however, and the head in the life support unit was merely a decoy. He remained hidden behind the scenes, his body intact.

Davros set up a trap for the Doctor - luring him to Necros with the news that an old friend had died and been interred at Tranquil Repose. His warped sense of humour led to the creation of a fake memorial to the Doctor set up in the Garden of Remembrance. Kara's assassin, Orcini, infiltrated the complex and destroyed the decoy, but Davros appeared from hiding to shoot him down. He could now harness electrical energy and discharge it from his fingers, and his chair could now levitate. Two of the complex's funeral attendants - Takis and Lilt - were unhappy with what Davros had done to Tranquil Repose, and had sent a message to the Dalek Supreme on Skaro. A ship was dispatched with a squad of Daleks to arrest him and bring him to Skaro to stand trial. Orcini's squire, Bostock, shot off Davros' remaining hand, and he was then captured by the Dalek squad. He was taken to their spaceship, which took off just before the dying Orcini blew up the complex - wiping out Davros' new army.

The Doctor, now in his Seventh incarnation, arrived on Earth in the London of 1963, in order to lure the Daleks into a trap of his own. He had previously hidden the powerful Hand of Omega in the city. This was the stellar manipulator which Omega had used to first provide the Gallifreyans with the energy needed to begin their time travel experiments. The Daleks wanted it so that they could also master time travel, but the Doctor had not reckoned on two opposing factions turning up to claim the device. The most powerful faction were loyal to the white domed Emperor, who was stationed on their command ship in orbit above the planet. These Daleks, in a white and gold livery, had been augmented with artificial implants, and possessed more powerful weapons - such as the Special Weapons Dalek. Those Daleks loyal to the Supreme were now a smaller rebel group.

Within the Emperor's casing was Davros, seemingly with very little of his body left. It transpired that he had managed to turn the tables on the Supreme when he had been sent for trial on Skaro, and had succeeded in taking over. His forces beat those of the Supreme and he was able to take control of the Hand of Omega. The Doctor goaded him into activating the device - sending it to Skaro's star system to provide the energy which Davros would use for his time travel experiments. However, the Doctor had pre-programmed it to fly into Skaro's sun and detonate it - wiping out the entire solar system. It then rebounded on the command ship. Davros was forced to retreat to an escape pod.

Davros then participated in the Time War, helping lead his creations against the Time Lords. They had helped start the war by sending the Doctor back to Skaro at the time he was creating the Daleks. The Doctor had seen Davros' spaceship apparently destroyed by the Nightmare Child. However, he had been saved by the intervention of Dalek Caan - last survivor of the Cult of Skaro, who had re-entered the time-locked conflict using an emergency temporal shift. Davros created a whole new army of Daleks using his own genetic material, including a new Dalek Supreme. He was then tasked with devising a weapon that would make the Daleks the supreme rulers of the universe - by being the only inhabitants of the universe. He created the Reality Bomb, constructed in the Dalek space-station known as the Crucible. This was hidden in a temporal pocket within the Medusa Cascade. It required the alignment of a number of planets, which were removed from space / time using a Magnetron and brought to the Cascade. These included the Earth. Davros was able to break into the sub-wave network which the Doctor and his companions were using to communicate with each other. He recognised Sarah Jane Smith from her visit to Skaro all those centuries ago.

Davros had divested himself of his Emperor casing, and the lost right hand had been replaced with a metal gauntlet, from which he could still discharge electrical energy. The Doctor believed that he was merely a puppet for the Supreme, locked away in a vault with the insane Caan and forced to obey the Supreme's instructions. Davros intended to break the Doctor's spirit before he activated his Reality Bomb - showing him how he had turned his friends into soldiers, and making him remember all those others who had died helping him. An attempt to destroy the TARDIS inadvertently led to the creation of a second, half human, Doctor, and giving Donna Noble Time Lord mental powers. Together they attacked the Crucible. Davros shot Donna with his electrical discharge, but this merely triggered the Time Lord part of her brain. She then set about sabotaging the Reality Bomb, and ultimately the Crucible was destroyed along with Davros' army. The Doctor attempted to save the Kaled scientist, but he refused his help.

Travelling alone in his Twelfth incarnation, the Doctor found himself on a battlefield on an alien planet. He came across a young boy trapped in the middle of a mine-field. He was about to rescue him when he discovered that he had arrived back on Skaro, at an earlier stage in the Kaled-Thal war, and the boy was Davros. He fled and abandoned him. Davros remembered this act, and sent his new head of security, Colony Sarff, in search of the Time Lord. The Doctor hid himself away in Medieval England, and prepared for his death, as he knew he had to atone for what he had done in abandoning the boy. Sarff tracked him down and brought him to a space-station where Davros was said to be dying. Clara Oswald and Missy accompanied them.

The space-station was really an optical illusion, and they were actually in the Dalek city on Skaro, which had been rebuilt by the Daleks. Davros was here, hooked up to an intensive care unit. He was replaying previous encounters with the Doctor. The Doctor attempted to escape by removing Davros from his chair, which he then used to travel to the command centre to force the Daleks to free him and his friends - leaving Davros' half-body lying on the floor. Colony Sarff, who was a gestalt snake creature, was hidden within the chair and he overpowered the Doctor. Back in the ICU, the Doctor and Davros spoke at length about their relationship. Davros sought to make the Doctor understand his actions, whilst the Doctor sought to make him see the error of his ways. They began to see some common ground, and the Doctor decided that he would not let Davros die. Davros revealed that he still had his own eyes, and wanted to see the sun rise above Skaro one last time.

Earlier, Davros had revealed that he was biologically linked to the Daleks, and killing him would destroy them, but the Doctor had been unable to do this. He agreed to give some of his regeneration energy to Davros and so prolong his life. This was all a trap, as Davros knew that this energy would be transmuted into all of his creations, turning them into partial Time Lords. He did not realise that the Doctor had known this all along, and that the energy would also animate the millions of liquefying Dalek remains which had been flushed into the sewers of the city. As Davros and the Daleks were revivified, the city was overwhelmed and destroyed. The Doctor then went back and saved Davros as a boy - implanting the concept of mercy in him, which he hoped he would have passed on to his creations.

Played by: Michael Wisher, David Gooderson, Terry Molloy, Julian Bleach, Joey Price.
Appearances: Genesis of the Daleks (1975), Destiny of the Daleks (1979), Resurrection of the Daleks (1984), Revelation of the Daleks (1985), Remembrance of the Daleks (1988), The Stolen Earth / Journey's End (2008), The Magician's Apprentice / The Witch's Familiar (2015).

  • Wisher was the original Davros, playing him in Genesis of the Daleks. He was unable to reprise the role in 1979 so David Gooderson replaced him, wearing the same mask and seated in the same prop chair, both of which had seen a lot of wear and tear whilst featuring in numerous Doctor Who exhibitions. Wisher was all set to reprise the role for "Warhead" in 1983, but industrial action at the BBC forced this to be put back a season, becoming Resurrection of the Daleks. The delay meant that Wisher was no longer available, and so Terry Molloy was cast as the new Davros. He kept the role for the remainder of the Classic era of the programme. Molloy, who has performed Davros many times on audio, came very close to being brought back when Russell T Davies wrote The Stolen Earth / Journey's End. Instead, Julian Bleach was given the role. Bleach has retained the part since. Joey Price played Davros as a boy in his most recent appearance.
Some images of Davros as he has appeared at the Doctor Who Experience and the Doctor Who Festival: